Panthea and Wish Come True are the latest releases from Stéphane Humbert Lucas‘ 777 line whose name is often shortened to SHL 777. My Reviews En Bref are shorter looks at fragrances that — for whatever reason — didn’t work for me or didn’t seem to warrant one of my detailed assessments which typically cover a scent from head to toe, from its official description to quoting other people’s thoughts in comparative reviews.
The golden dunes and shifting sands of the Taklamakan are an appropriate setting for Stéphane Humbert Lucas‘ upcoming perfume by the same name. Taklamakan is the name of the world’s second largest shifting sand desert, composed primarily of large, striking sand dunes. It is also China’s largest desert, located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and a part of the ancient Silk Road trade route that helped to spread spices from China to Persia, Greece, Rome, and beyond. Spices, scorched sands, dryness, and golden warmth are very much a part of Taklamakan, the perfume, but there were other things that struck me about choice of a desert name.
The ancient temple of Petra soars high in the sky before a vast desert whose sands are stained pink and red with the blood of roses. The flowers are dusted with fiery spices, then nestled in a cocoon of green mosses and dry woods. A soft ambered hue hangs above them matching the gold-pink-red of the caves near the temple, while down below trickles a dark stream of smoky styrax, balsamic resins, and a touch of leather. A woman walks quietly in the shade, veiled in rose-red, her dark eyes watching the incoming shadows as the dusty desert wind brings sand, dryness and whispers of wood from distant lands. She wears Rose de Petra by Stéphane Humbert Lucas.
Every time I wear Rose de Petra, its desert inspiration and its layered, spicy dryness always make me think of Sting’s famous song, “Desert Rose“:
I dream of rain
I lift my gaze to empty skies above
I close my eyes, this rare perfume
Is the sweet intoxication of her love
I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand
Sweet desert rose
Each of her veils, a secret promise
This desert flower
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this
Sweet desert rose
This memory of Eden haunts us all
This desert flower, this rare perfume
Is the sweet intoxication of the fall.
Unlike poor Sting, Rose de Petra doesn’t make me feel tortured or pained, but it does indeed call to mind the desert rose that hides its “gardens in the sand” behind veils, each layer like a secret promise of more to come, before revealing its soft, sweet heart. I’m not particularly fond of rose fragrances, but I thought this one was very refined, wonderfully smooth, and really lovely. Yes, even “intoxicating” at times, just as the song says, though not because of the actual rose note, in my opinion.
Rose de Petra is a fragrance from the Paris niche house, Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 (hereinafter just referred to as “SHL” or “777“). Monsieur Lucas was the in-house perfumer for SoOud and Nez à Nez, but launched his new house in 2013. There were originally seven fragrances, one of which was Rose de Petra, followed by several new releases this year. They are all officially listed as being eau de parfums, but are really extrait or pure parfums with at least 24% concentration.
Until last month, all the 777 creations were exclusive to Europe, Russia, and Middle Eastern, but they are now carried in America at Luckyscent and Osswald NY. Monsieur Lucas kindly and graciously sent me samples of his entire 11-piece collection, from the jaw-dropping, spectacular, monster amber, O Hira (which blew my socks off), the smoky new Oud 777, the gourmand Une Nuit à Doha, and the superb Black Gemstone which was love at first sniff for me. This is the final review of the series.
Monsieur Lucas has a genuine love of the Middle East, from its majestic ancient buildings to its philosophical mysticism, and he uses both as the inspiration for all the fragrances in his new line. For Rose de Petra, he was moved partially by the magnificent, famed temple of Petra in Jordan, but also by “rose du sable” or the “desert rose.” As Wikipedia explains, those are colloquial names given to a desert crystal made partially from sand in a formation which resembles a rose. Sands and rose… that should give you a small idea of Rose de Petra’s nature, but its core essence is something very different in my opinion.
The fragrance is essentially a chypre-oriental hybrid, though you’d never guess that by looking at its official notes of its notes or the press release description provided to me:
Philter of Bulgarian rose,
red epithem, sensual and pungent.
Generous, silky and mystical rose.
Rose Oxide – Pomegranate – Litchi
Pepper – Cardamom – Cumin seeds.
Regular readers of my 777 reviews will know by now that the official list given to places like Fragrantica or to distributors is merely a highly abbreviated, thumbnail synopsis. The lists are never complete, and leave off what I’d estimate to be 40% to 70% of the elements, depending on the fragrance. (In the case of O Hira, the one note “list” omits 99% of the actual notes.) Monsieur Lucas has told me candidly that he wants people to be moved emotionally by what they smell, not to be fixated on the details. He believes that perfume should be about a journey, almost a transcendental experience or escape. The minutiae detracts from what he wants you to feel.
Well, I’m far too OCD about details for such abstract esotericism. I like to know what’s in a scent, especially when I detect a lot more than what is listed. In the case of Rose de Petra, I smelled saffron, patchouli, styrax, a balsamic resin, cedar, vanilla, tonka, a tobacco-like leatheriness, a leafy greenness, and an oud note. So I wrote to Monsieur Lucas, and it turns out that many of those things are indeed in Rose de Petra, though not the oud which he was happy to hear about and which he said was a sort of “mirage” that he’d intentionally sought to create.
The list of notes in Rose de Petra is actually closer to the following, though Monsieur Lucas hinted that even this is not complete:
Essence of Bulgarian rose, rose oxide, litchi, pomegranate, pepper, cardamom, cumin, saffron, cinnamon, patchouli, leather, Peru balsam, styrax, vetiver, cedar, oakmoss, tree moss, labdanum [amber], coumarin, and vanilla.
In his correspondence with me, Monsieur Lucas said he sought to make a fragrance that highlighted contrasts. The fruitiness and gaiety of the Bulgarian rose; the heat, spices, stoniness. and mystery of the desert; the sandy beauty of the “Rose du Sables” or desert rose; and the striated stone of Petra. He wanted a composition that was “chaud et froid,” hot and cold, with small touches of various mosses and “green” fresh cedar counterbalanced by the fiery spices, the rich Peru balsam, dark leather, and smoky styrax. And, to demonstrate the contrasts, he shared the photos which inspired him and which represent the visuals of Rose de Petra in his mind:
Rose de Petra opens on my skin with pink roses that are dewy and wet, simultaneously pale but rich. For all their delicacy, they are heavily sprinkled with spices from nutty cardamon and dusty cumin to the fieriness of black pepper and red-gold saffron. Sweet cinnamon follows in their trail, then the fruity tartness of pomegranates. The liquidy dewiness is a subtle, muted touch which stems from the lychee (or litchi), and it is quickly overwhelmed by a heaping dose of very fruited, purple patchouli which turns the rose from pink to blood-red.
There are other elements noticeable as well. As the spices grow stronger on top, the first hints of the dark base appear, almost like a shadow falling over the background. There is a subtle, tiny streak of smoky leatheriness from the styrax, while the Peru balsam adds both an undercurrent of sticky darkness and a full-bodied richness to the scent. Lurking at the edges is a tangy sweet-sourness, accompanied by a leafy greenness. It goes beyond mere pomegranates, and I initially wondered if a tiny dose of cassis had been used as well. At a much higher dosage and quantity, those notes reveal themselves to be oakmoss.
I’ve tested Rose de Petra a number of times and, while the overall parameters of the opening are largely the same, the perfume really shines if you apply more of the scent. My sample atomizer had a very wonky, temperamental spray that gave out little dribs and drabs, so the first time I applied roughly the equivalent of one decent spritz from a bottle. On subsequent occasions, I doubled and even tripled the dose and… good heavens, the oakmoss really shines forth. In some fragrances, moss notes can smell pungently mineralized, grey, fusty, dusty, or akin to dry tree bark. Here, however, it is lushly green, rich, and smooth.
These richer elements transform the rose in less than five minutes. From the delicate, pale, dewy, little thing of its opening, the rose now feels drenched in a darkly fruited liqueur, as if a rich cordial had been poured all over the velvety petals. Fieriness lies just underneath from the spices, while a subtle, tart tanginess from the pomegranates weaves in and out of the top notes like tiny, little fireflies. The whole thing likes on a base that is plushly green from the oakmoss, but overcast with black shadows from leathery, smoky, balsamic elements.
I know some of you are cumin-phobes who shudder at the mere mention of the word, so let me reassure you here and now: you needn’t worry. Nothing in Rose de Petra smells fetid, sweaty, food-like, or reminiscent of stale, unwashed body odor. Rather, each and every time I’ve tested the fragrance, the note is more like an abstract, spicy dustiness. To be honest, the cumin is a really subtle, minor note in the opening, hardly detectable on my skin next to the saffron, liqueured fruits, oakmoss and rose. And, as time passes, it grows even more abstract, like a mere suggestion of dustiness left at the bottom of an ancient spice drawer.
At the end of the day, the rose and only the rose is the star of this soliflore. Rose de Petra feels like one, big long aria by a rose wearing different costumes, shedding the chypre-like mosses and patchouli veils of its opening to show its more purely oriental skin later on.
It is like Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils, but it also reminds me of something else: Frederic Malle‘s famous Portrait of a Lady (“POAL”). I wasn’t keen on the latter which was a gooey, rose-patchouli explosion on my skin with virtually no oakmoss to imbue it with any real chypre character. Rose de Petra’s opening feels like a spicier, substantially less syrupy, much deeper and richer version of the Malle scent. There is a greenness and subtle tanginess to the 777 fragrance that POAL lacks, and more dusty spiciness than the Malle ever demonstrated on my skin. Rose de Petra also feels much more concentrated, at least at first.
20 minutes into its development, Rose de Petra grows even spicier, and begins to resemble another famous fragrance. As fieriness and dustiness take over the blood-red, velvety flowers, Rose de Petra is slowly turning into what most people seem to experience with Amouage‘s Lyric Woman. On my skin, the latter was largely all about the ylang-ylang with very little spiced rose, so perhaps I should compare Rose de Petra to Lyric’s sister from the same nose: Epic Woman. The latter was definitely all about spiced, dusty, woody roses on me, but the very jammy richness of the flowers probably makes Rose de Petra closer to the conventional interpretation of Lyric Woman. The bottom line, though, is that the 777 creation starts off on my skin with similarities to Malle’s Portrait of a Lady, then turns into a combination of the Malle with one or both of Amouage’s famous rose fragrances. To be sure, there are differences, but the kinship is there.
Thoughts of Epic Woman come to mind again at the end of the first hour when Rose de Petra loses some of its jammy sweetness and chypre accords. The perfume turns woodier, drier and slightly balsamic as the base elements begin to rise to the surface. The oakmoss retreats, the subtle touch of tartness from the pomegranate dies away, and the individual spices turn more amorphous and indistinct. It’s no longer easy to pull out the cinnamon, black pepper, saffron, or even the dustiness of the cumin; everything has melted into each other, as the notes overlap seamlessly. Even the very concentrated denseness of Rose de Petra softens, with the sillage changing to match.
Rose de Petra starts off as quite a strong, robust scent with decent projection. Using the equivalent of 2 tiny sprays from an actual bottle gave me 2 inches of sillage, while 3 small sprays gave me 3 inches. However, those numbers soon drop, and Rose de Petra’s concentrated, rich opening bouquet turns quite airy and soft roughly 75 minutes into its development. At that time, the sillage drops to an inch above the skin, where it remains for the next few hours. So, when taken as an average whole, I would say that Rose de Petra is generally an airy, light scent with soft, almost intimate projection.
At the start of the 3rd hour, Rose de Petra shifts again. The dry, woody tonalities grow stronger, and there was a definite suggestion of oud on my skin when I used a lesser quantity. At a higher dose, that was not as evident, though the cedar most definitely was. In both cases, however, and regardless of quantity, the perfume takes on a darker quality as the woods and smoky styrax rise up from the base to envelop the rose. Even the leather grows faintly more noticeable, though it is still mostly a subtle suggestion on my skin.
Rose de Petra now demonstrates a chiaroscuro effect, a play of light and dark, as the darker shadows are contrasted by a glow of warmth from the labdanum amber and by a definite streak of creaminess with a slightly powdery touch that speaks to the tonka and vanilla. (The note list mentions coumarin, but, for me, that often has a hay-like characteristic that I don’t detect here. Plus, coumarin comes from tonka beans, and that’s what I detect, so that’s what I’m going to call it.) Rose de Petra continues to be spicy, but it remains largely abstract, though once in a while a more distinct whisper of cardamon and pepper does pop up.
Rose de Petra has lost a lot of its thick richness, both in terms of the jammy, velvety rose and the perfume’s body itself. It feels much airier and softer than it did in the first hour. As a whole, Rose de Petra is now a spicy, dry, woody rose, lightly flecked by a dark resins, a suggestion of smokiness, a golden warmth, and creamy vanilla. There is a whisper of something almost like oud, but only a minute, lingering patina of jammy, patchouli sweetness or oakmoss.
Rose de Petra turns wholly abstract by the middle of the 4th hour. It is the merest wisp of a soft, slightly spicy rose with woodiness and tonka vanilla. Though there is a touch of sweetness, the perfume’s dryness and the occasionally sandy, powdery feel of the vanilla call to mind the desert sand of its inspiration. Sting’s “Desert Rose,” indeed. It’s very pretty, but it’s also a complete skin scent on me by this point.
The perfume continues to subtly shift, as the tonka vanilla grows stronger with every passing moment and vies with the woody tonalities for second place. By the start of the 6th hour, the lightly spiced rose is infused with as much creamy tonka as woodiness, all in a gauzy wisp that coats the skin like translucent pink silk. On occasion, a lingering hint of pomegranate floats by to startle me, almost like red dandelion fluff in the wind. Once in a blue moon, a hint of something darker follows it, but, for the most part, Rose de Petra has shed its dark shadows, opting for vanilla instead of balsamic, leathery, smoky elements. In its final moments, the perfume is a blur of sweet, dusty, pale pink roses with vanilla and the faintest suggestion of something woody.
All in all, Rose de Petra lasts between 8.5 and 9.5 hours on my skin, depending on how much I apply. It has the shortest longevity of any of the SHL line on my skin, and it also feels like the softest of the 11 fragrances. Like almost all of Monsieur Lucas’ creations (minus the 2022 Generation Homme which I despise with a passion), Rose de Petra feels very smooth, expensive, and refined. It’s hardly the most revolutionary, unusual, edgy scent around, but then few rose soliflores are.
In fact, I have to say, I liked it a lot more than I thought. Rose perfumes aren’t generally my thing, especially when they’re gooey and overly sweet, but I find very mossy or spicy versions much more appealing. Rose de Petra is what I had hoped both Portrait of a Lady and Lyric Woman would be on my skin, combined into one scent. I really liked the fiery bite that briefly resembled chili peppers at one point when I applied a greater dosage, along with something verging almost on a tobacco undertone from the mix of dark resins, labdanum and leather. The combination of dry dustiness, jammy sweetness, and fiery spices was particularly nice when contrasted with the oakmoss.
Even the fruitchouli was well calibrated so that it didn’t take on Portrait of a Lady’s purple, syrupy excesses. Actually, I think Rose de Petra’s heightened degrees of spiciness and background woodiness that really helped in that regard, along with the subtle touch of pomegranate. All three things ensure that the patchouli remains as a sort of tart, tangy liqueured cordial, instead of revoltingly sweet molasses. The pomegranate may not have been hugely noticeable in its own right, and I would have preferred much more of it, but I think it works subtly and indirectly to help keep the balance.
In the subsequent stages, the interplay between the creamy vanilla, the leathery base, and the warm ambered glow is truly lovely, especially when counterbalanced by the woody dryness. I can’t rave enough about the strongly balsamic, darker elements. They seep into everything, transforming the rose from the chypre of its opening into something purely Oriental, but none of it is sharp. All of it feels smooth and velvety soft, even the leathery, slightly smoky styrax. By the time the final stage rolled around, Rose de Petra frequently reminded me creamy, golden petals, thanks to the lovely vanilla tonka.
My only quibble with the fragrance is that it’s too soft and airy, with sillage that is a little too intimate, but all that is a matter of personal preference. It’s also not a hugely distinctive scent, except in terms of its quality. There, I think it stands neck and neck with offerings from Amouage or Frederic Malle. As a whole, I think Rose de Petra is a refined, approachable, uncomplicated but luxurious scent that could be worn on a variety of different occasions, including the office after the first hour has passed. I also think it is unisex, thanks to the darker, drier, and woody elements.
Rose de Petra is one of the more affordable creations in the 777 line. It retails for €148 or $220 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum. I think it’s definitely set at the right price. As a side note, Rose de Petra costs less at $220 than a comparable 50 ml bottle of Lyric Woman which retails for $280, and it is fractionally cheaper than Malle’s $230 Portrait of a Lady. If you love either of those fragrances, you should give Rose de Petra a sniff.
In the meantime, I leave you with an unofficial video for Sting’s Desert Rose. Its desert imagery, stunningly vivid colours, and romantic mood feel like a perfect fit for Rose de Petra in my mind.
Disclosure: Perfume sample courtesy of Stéphane Humbert Lucas. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Cost & Availability: Rose de Petra is an Extrait or pure parfum that is only available in a 50 ml bottle and costs $220 or €148. In the U.S.: Osswald NY carries the 777 line, and sells Rose de Petra for $220. Luckyscent also has 777 fragrances, and sells Rose de Petra for the same amount. Outside the U.S.: Currently, the Stéphane Humbert Lucas’ website is under construction, and doesn’t have an e-store. The best online resource is First in Fragrance which has all the SHL 777 line, including Rose de Petra. In London, you can find the collection at Harrod’s Black Room, while in Paris, they are exclusive to Printemps under the name 777. Zurich’s Osswald also carries the line, but I don’t think they have an e-store any more. The Swiss perfumery, Theodora, also has SHL 777, but no e-store. In the Middle East, Souq.com used to have 6 of the earlier fragrances, but I no longer see them on the website. In the UAE, the SHL 777 line is available at Harvey Nichols and at Bloomingdales in the Dubai Mall. In Russia, SHL 777 is sold at Lenoma. Ukraine’s Sana Hunt Luxury store also carries the line, but they don’t have an e-store. Samples: In Europe, you can order a sample from First in Fragrance. In the U.S., none of the decanting sites currently carry this fragrance, but Luckyscent and Osswald NYC sell samples. Osswald’s Sample Program has a 3-order minimum but free domestic shipping. Pricing depends on the cost of the particular perfume in question. They range from $3 for a 2 ml vial, up to $9 for fragrances that cost over $300. Given Rose de Petra’s $220 price, a 2 ml spray sample should cost $6. It’s a better deal than Luckyscent’s $5 price for a small 0.7 dab vial. You can call Osswald at (212) 625-3111 to order, or use their website.
A ball of orange, green and gold, dripping with exotic juices from an orchard before being swathed in Russian leather and amber. Soleil de Jeddah from Stéphane Humbert Lucas often feels as bright as the sun it was named after, but there is a slow eclipse as dark, slightly smoky leather casts its shadow over its bright heart.
Soleil de Jeddah is a 2013 parfum extrait from Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 (hereinafter just referred to as “SHL 777” or “777“). All the fragrances are created by Monsieur Lucas, who used to be the in-house perfumer for SoOud and Nez à Nez. Up to now, the 777 line was exclusive to Europe, Russia, and Middle Eastern, but there is good news. The complete SHL 777 line should be coming to America in a few days, including the stunning amber monster, O Hira, that was previously contractually limited to Harrods and to Printemps, and the 2013 iris-amber-heliotrope Khol de Bahrein.
The new 2014 releases should also be available, such as the highly original cherry-latex-almond-cedar-oud Qom Chilom, the immortelle gourmand, Une Nuit à Doha, and the Cambodian oud, smoke and leather, Oud 777. The scents will be exclusive to Luckyscent and Osswald NYC. I have samples of the line, thanks to the generosity and kindness of Monsieur Lucas, and Soleil de Jeddah is the last in my series. (Rose de Petra was accidentally omitted from my package.)
As a side note, it is Monsieur Lucas who takes all the photos of the perfume bottles that I have shown in this series, and I think the one for Soleil de Jeddah may be one of the prettiest images that I’ve seen for a fragrance in a long time.
Soleil de Jeddah is a pure parfum with 24% perfume concentration that is described in the press materials provided to me as follows:
Bakelite of pulverized amber.
A fragrance both dignified and aphrodisiac.
Solar fragrance, luminous, bright, respectful reference to the holy city.
Lemon – Roman Chamomile – Osmanthus
Iris Root – Amber – Earthy Notes
Iris Butter – Russian Leather – Vanilla from Madagascar.
Regular readers will know by now that, as with other SHL 777 fragrances, the official list is merely a nutshell synopsis. I’ll spare you the details of my now routine (and very comedic) email exchanges with Monsieur Lucas, where I tell him all the other things I smell in the perfume and ask what is missing from his official list. Suffice it say, he is a very kind and patient man, and we’ve had a good laugh about my OCD obsession with details.
The actual note list for Soleil de Jeddah is incredibly long. These are just the main elements:
Osmanthus, Roman chamomile, Acacia mimosa (Fleur de Cassie), genet (Broom), lemon, mandarin, Sicilian bergamot, iris butter, iris concrete, jasmine, carnation, Indian patchouli, Russian leather (Isobutyl quinoleine and birch wood), oakmoss, civet, musk, styrax, labdanum amber, benzoin, and Madagascar vanilla.
Monsieur Lucas described Soleil de Jeddah to me as a perfume with a powerful citrus opening, followed by a strong floral heart, above a persistent, dark, intensely leathered base that is imbued with mousse de chene or oakmoss. He visualises it as a perfume that a woman would wear to a ball, with a long, flowing gown whose open back exposes sensual skin, all worn with a “panoply of jewels” and furs. I can see his vision and understand it, but, for me, Soleil de Jeddah is more akin to a glowing ball of yellow and orange centered on a massively concentrated citric and fruity heart, above a leathered base flecked with animalic civet.
Soleil de Jeddah opens on my skin with juicy apricots that are tangy with jamminess, followed by very tart, sour, zesty lemon, then iris, more iris, a light dusting of iris powder, chamomile, and an odd woodiness. There are leather nuances and a touch of smokiness, but the overall impression is of brightness. (I wrote in my notes, “bright, bright, BRIGHT!”)
Osmanthus often smells of apricots, with a leathery undertone, but flower in Soleil de Jeddah is highly imbued with other fruits as well. The result is a mixed osmanthus note with a concentrated feel that I’ve never experienced before. It reminds me of Black Gemstone‘s dense, tangy lemon curd, only here, the citrus is accompanied by equally concentrated apricots and oranges as well. Just as in Black Gemstone, the fruits in Soleil de Jeddah have been heavily amplified by a jammy, purple patchouli, but the main sensation is of tartness, not syrupy sweetness. It is a saturated explosion of tangy zestiness that is fresh, crisp, heavy, sweet, and sour, all at once.
It also strongly reminded me of something else, and, for the longest time, I couldn’t place it. Initially, the overall effect made me think a little of a tart Jolly Rancher candy infused strongly with iris and a touch of chamomile. But that wasn’t really it. There was more going on. Then it came to me: the green tartness resembled a kiwi and pineapple mix, with perhaps a tiny touch of cassis or black currant. At least, the first time around. On two subsequent tests, the zingy, tart, tangy fruitiness consistently smelled like green mangoes. It is exactly like the very concentrated, potent, heady mix in Neela Vermeire‘s bright mango floriental, Bombay Bling. I tried them side-by-side at one point, and yes, I am wafting green mangoes. I cannot explain it at all.
In all my tests, however, the multi-faceted fruit accord is always cocooned in iris above a slightly leather base. The iris smells wet, rooty, woody, cool, and lightly powdered all at once. The leather base is dark, thick, and, initially, lightly smoked, with flecks of a dry woodiness that reminds me of tree bark.
Many fragrances attempt to recreate the impression of “leather” through other notes. As the Perfume Shrine explains, “[r]endering a leather note in perfumery is a challenge for the perfumer[,]” and that what is “actually used” to create that olfactory impression are vegetal or synthetic ingredients which can include birch tar, juniper cade, and quinoline. The Perfume Shrine adds:
isobutyl quinoline … possesses a fiercely potent odour profile described as earthy, rooty, and nutty, echoing certain facets of oakmoss and vetiver and blending very well with both. Isobutyl quinoline also has ambery, woody, tobacco-like undertones: a really rich aromachemical!
While some of that description applies to what I smell in Soleil de Jeddah, my nose seems to read the leather more as “birch tar,” probably because that is how I am used to “Russian leather” being replicated. The note here is very similar to the leather in Caron‘s Tabac Blond and Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie, but Monsieur Lucas said only a little birch was used in the fragrance and that the main elements in the base are smoky styrax resin and isobutyl quinoline. Still, on my skin, there was a definite streak of woodiness in one of my tests of Soleil de Jeddah that I interpreted as “birch” bark shavings.
It’s an unusual combination when taken as a whole. The iris with the tart, tangy fruits and chamomile stands out as it is, but I have to admit that the “birch” wood totally threw me the first time around. Its dry woodiness and smokiness feels a bit strange in conjunction with apricot-kiwi-pineapple (or mango). And, yet, somehow it works. On some levels, Soleil de Jeddah reminded me of a super concentrated, heavy, more powerful cousin to Creed‘s cult hit, Aventus. The fruits are completely different, but the tangy, juicy, citric, lightly smoked feel underscored by birch leather is the same. Soleil de Jeddah is more dense and complex though, with constant streaks of chamomile and iris.
Those last two notes are soon overshadowed as the leathered base grows smokier and more powerful. The iris consistently fades on my skin after 20 minutes, and is never replaced by the other floral notes on the list. Carnation? Not on me. Jasmine? Non plus. Mimosa? Only occasionally, in the background, and in the most muted way imaginable. For the most part, Soleil de Jeddah’s main bouquet on my skin is consistently some fluctuating mix of apricots, oranges, lemon curd, green mango/kiwi/pineapple, chamomile, and jammy patchouli, all over the smoky leather base made up of styrax, birch, and isobutyl quinoline.
It’s an intensely concentrated, deep, strong mix but there is a surprising weightlessness to it. Despite the richness of its notes, Soleil de Jeddah doesn’t feel opaque or dense, and the sillage is generally average on my skin. 2 large spritzes from my atomizer, amounting to one good spray from a proper bottle, gave me a soft cloud with 3 inches in projection at first. Using 3 spritzes expanded the radius by another inch. Yet, in both cases, the sillage dropped at the start of the 2nd hour, and Soleil de Jeddah lay 1-2 inches above the skin. It turned into a skin scent roughly 4.75 hours in, which is much less time than some of the other SHL 777 fragrances that I’ve tried. Still, for those first few hours, Soleil de Jeddah has good sillage, and feels particularly strong up close due to the saturated, rich nature of the notes.
In all my tests, Soleil de Jeddah starts to transition into its second phase at the end of the 3rd hour. A powdery vanilla arrives to diffuse both the smokiness of the styrax resin in the base and the tartness of the fruits up top. It casts a thin blanket over the notes, softening them through the lens of a dry vanilla. As in a few of the SHL 777 fragrances, the note is not so much powdered or sweet as grainy and sandy; it’s almost more textural at times than actual vanilla, if that makes any sense. Soleil de Jeddah is still sharp and rich up close, but it lacks the same degree of concentrated, thick juiciness in its fruits, and the woodiness has disappeared.
The leather remains, however. In the majority of my tests, the apricot-orange-mango accord takes a step back, letting the smoky Russian leather and vanilla slowly take over center stage. Tiny flickers of chamomile continue to lurk about, while the amber begins to stirs in the base. It doesn’t smell like ambergris (which is what First in Fragrance mistakenly lists it as), nor like labdanum. Rather, it is merely a soft, golden haze which adds warmth to the scent. The jammy, purple patchouli occasionally appears in its own right as an individually distinct note next to the apricot-orange-lemon-mango accord, but, generally, it melts into the fruits. Once in a blue moon, I think I may smell a brief pinch of mimosa in the powderiness, but it is probably the power of suggestion.
At the end of the 7th hour, Soleil de Jeddah is a blur of black Russian leather and abstract, tart fruits, all lightly powdered with vanilla and cocooned in a soft, golden warmth. There is a civet-like sharpness to the scent, along with a lingering touch of sweetness that made me wonder if there was honey in Soleil de Jeddah. Monsieur Lucas says there isn’t, but the sweetness has a definite animalic sharpness that seems to go beyond mere civet on my skin. Whatever the source of the note, Soleil de Jeddah’s leather has a touch of skanky dirtiness underlying it.
The leather eventually fades away, and Soleil de Jeddah’s final drydown on my skin consists of tart fruitiness with vanilla and civet. There are touches of jammy patchouli which occasionally pop up, but very little remains of the birch, isobutyl quinoline, or woodiness. There is no powder, and Soleil de Jeddah isn’t even really ambered any more, either.
In its final moments, the perfume is a mere blur of dry, semi-tart fruitiness with a touch of vanilla and some lingering sharpness from the civet. All in all, Soleil de Jeddah consistently lasted over 10 hours on my skin. With 2 spritzes, I thought it was about to die at the end of the 9th hour, but the perfume lingered on tenaciously for a total of 10.75 hours. With 3 spritzes, Soleil de Jeddah lasted just under 12 hours, really more like 11.75.
I could not find any comparative reviews to show you how others see the scent. On Fragrantica, where Soleil de Jeddah is categorized as a “leather,” the perfume’s entry page has no comments at this time. However, one of my readers, “Lady Jane Grey,” owns the scent and shared her experiences in the comment section of another one of my SHL 777 reviews. There, she wrote about how Soleil de Jeddah was 2 perfumes in 1 on her skin, changing its character from one occasion to the next:
Jeddah smells differently worn on the same spot (left wrist) – when I tested at Harrods (mid afternoon) it was fruity and bright and happy, a spring scent entirely with a golden agarwood note in the back. Spritzed in the evening on the same spot the oud has that medical note, which in fact I quite like, because I find it calming. The scent is sweet and creamy..
Soleil de Jeddah has no oud, so I suspect the isobutyl quinoline and birch may be responsible for the woodiness that she is detecting.
For another blogger, the charming Christos of Memory of Scent, a brief test of Soleil de Jeddah in Switzerland’s Theodora Parfumery was all about the bright fruits. His short synopsis reads:
777 Stéphane Hubert Lucas Soleil de Jeddah: high end, high price, Middle East oriented house. This however, 3 hours after being sparyed on a blotter, feels like it is dripping fruity juices, in the best possible way, coming from someone who doesn’t like fruity fragrances. And all this with a touch of leather and ambergris! Very interesting!
I don’t generally like fruity fragrances, either, but I share his view that Soleil de Jeddah is a very interesting take on it, thanks to the smoky Russian leather and the other accords.
While Soleil de Jeddah’s strong backbone of fruitiness isn’t my personal style, I think the perfume will be a hit for those who are looking for a more adult, polished, original take on fruity fragrances. Those who adore very bright, tangy, sunny orientals like Bombay Bling will enjoy the similar vibe here, while the inclusion of smoky leather, animalic civet, and soft ambered warmth should reassure those who aren’t into “fruit cocktails,” as one friend of mine calls the category. And, who knows, you may even be lucky enough to experience the plethora of floral elements included in the scent, though they never really appeared on my skin. Finally, if you’re a fan of Aventus‘ mix of tangy-sweet fruits with birch leather, you may very much enjoy the richer, more concentrated SHL 777 take on the theme, especially if the Creed perfume doesn’t last on your skin.
Soleil de Jeddah is priced in the middle of the SHL 777 range. In Europe, it costs €235 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum that has 24% concentration. I don’t have the official American pricing rate, but I believe Osswald will sell it for $309. So, it’s not at the high-end represented by the magnificent monster amber, O Hira, but it’s also not at the “cheap” level of the lovely iris-amber-heliotrope, Khol de Bahrein, or the gourmand immortelle-marmalade-tobacco, Une Nuit à Doha.
In short, if you’re looking for a leather fragrance with a twist, or if you enjoy bright, tangy fruits whose rich juices feel as though they’re dripping off the vine onto your skin, give Soleil de Jeddah a sniff.
Disclosure: Perfume sample courtesy of Stéphane Humbert Lucas. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.